We’re here at another matchday, as our month of intense football is now well underway, with Luton at home tonight. On paper at least you’d look at our April fixture list and say this is the one in which Arsenal would have the highest odds and should be considered the overwhelming favourites for the three points tonight, but complacency can be a killer, so I’m sure Mikel Arteta will be at pains to point out to his players that the preparation for this game needs to be as fastidious as the one against City at the weekend.

The watch word amongst Arsenal fans that I’ve been seeing over the last 24 hours is ‘rotation’ and I suspect there aren’t many of us that expect Arsenal to be completely unchanged for the visit of the Hatters this evening, but personally I’d advise against too much of it. This feels a little weird me saying it, because I’m usually somebody who is ‘all in’ on rotation, but given how well Arteta managed some of the games in which we raced to a good lead against the likes of West Ham, Burnley and Sheffield United, I am wondering if that is a better option for us than having to chop and change from the start tonight.

Of course Luton are no mugs and just because they are scrapping towards the bottom of the table, doesn’t mean we’re going to get them a bit of a tonking on our own turf. They gave us a bit of a ding-dong battle at Kenilworth Road towards the back end of 2023 and we need to be mindful of the threat they will possess. It will no doubt be on the counter and transition, as you’d expect Arsenal to have most of the ball this evening, but when Luton do get their opportunities they will go long and direct. It’s how they’ve managed to upset and cause problems for a few teams this season and so our back line need to be ready to see those balls pumped up to whoever plays up top for them tonight (Adebayo is injured and he was a physical presence – believe it was a corner that they got one of their three goals against us earlier in the season that he scored from). But the good news is that we have two centre halves in Saliba and Gabriel who love that kind of battle – just ask Erling Haaland – so I’m hoping that we can counter that clear and obvious threat from the visitors this evening.

What also might be helpful to us is the injuries that Luton have too. According to Premier Injuries they’ve currently got 13 players out injured, although some of those are due to face fitness tests, so whether that is the case come kick off I’m not sure. Rob Edwards has said yesterday that they’re expecting to have four teenagers on the bench and he’s already admitted their plan is to defend for their lives, so I’m expecting a very compact and deep-lying Luton to try to  make themselves difficult to break down this evening.

That’s why we need to be playing as many of the close-quarters, tight-control, players as we possibly can, I think. Those players who can work in confined spaces around the box and that’s why I’d be thinking about playing Gabriel Jesus through the middle tonight. I’d have Trossard in there too, because he’s tricky and good with the ball at his feet, but how exactly we set up I’m not sure. If I was picking the team then I’d probably go with:


White   –   Saliba   –   Gabriel   –   Zinchenko


Odegaard   –   Rice

Saka   –   Jesus   –   Trossard

I’m torn on this because it seems mad not to put Martinelli in there somewhere, but with so little space to work in behind, I just have a feeling that all of the football is going to be played in front of us, which is why I’d be looking at Trossard as somebody who can wriggle in and out of tight spaces in a low block. I’ve also gone for Partey in the base of the six because I feel like his verticality in his passing might prove to be useful on those occasions Luton do venture forward, but also we have games coming up in which we need him to be more match fit than he is now and so if we can give him a solid hour on the pitch, it will aid his recovery for our really tough run in.

I’ve also opted for Zinchenko because, again, we’re going to have most of the ball tonight. So having somebody who will drift in to midfield to be that extra man feels natural. Luton like to go direct and get the ball in to the box as quickly as possible and so having fullbacks feels like it might be a novelty at times, so Zinchenko through the middle and White overlapping wide right makes sense to me. Gabriel and Saliba should have all of the required quality to tackle any long ball aerial threats – or you’d like to think they should.

Luton do give up chances too, so I’m expecting us to be having a right go at their goal this evening; they have the worst expected goals allowed, which means they give opponents plenty of good quality chances and although we need to be mindful that they will come to frustrate, we should also be looking at this as an opportunity to create lots of chances this evening – the numbers point that way anyway.

Football has so many variables in it that rarely do things work out exactly as you’d expect them to on paper, so I’m not going to be counting my chickens and expecting another six goal mauling. But I do think that if you want to win titles you have to win these sort of games and then crack on to the next one. That’s the task that sits in front of Arsenal this evening and that’s what they have to deliver on.

Catch you all tomorrow for a debrief. Hopefully it is another three points so we can continue to keep asking Liverpool the questions (even if they are going to give Sheffield United an absolute pulverising tomorrow evening at Anfield).

Have a good one folks.